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Bluff City Southern

Bluff City Southern

In the Spring of 2006 I renewed my membership to the excellent National Model Railroad Association . Anyone with even a passing interest in the hobby should consider joining. The opportunity to meet and fellowship with fellow model railroaders is magnified by association with NMRA.

It was through my regional NMRA chapter that I was invited to operate on the stunning Bluff City Southern, the layout of Mr. Allen Keller, genteel producer of Allen Keller Productions, stunning video tours of the amazing model railroad layouts of many of the icons of the hobby. Long had I wanted to meet Mr. Keller and his Bluff City Southern.

The Bluff City Southern is the Frisco, Illinois Central (my hometown railroad), Louisville & Nashville, Missouri Pacific and Southern railroads centered in Memphis, Tennessee, gem of the Mid-South, circa 1950. Mr. Keller’s layout is engineered to excellence--I can not recall a single derailment nor a time a short circuit has shut down the trains. For my money, the scenery is what I can only hope to create! Many of his structures are scratch built. All operational area are fully sceniced, high-detail abounds. Stories (some obvious, some subtle) are created all over the layout. Mr. Keller grew up in the area during this era and he has encapsulated his memories in his dynamic diorama that occupies the better part of approximately 1,360 square feet.

Scenery unique to model railroading covers the layout. These are not the bleak western mountains or the round fuzzy forested hills in the eastern USA. This is the flat delta and flood plains of the Mississippi watershed. Cotton fields and forests abound.

Memphis hosted several railroads including the five modeled here. The epicenter is Memphis Union Station and the city’s large freight yard. From these areas, joined by a large wye that penetrates a scene-break wall, are modeled railroad routes radiating from the city. Through Tennessee the lines reach Memphis, Somerville and Toone. Recently completed beyond Toone is an impressive trestle across the Hatchie River bottoms. Into Mississippi we are taken through Tunica, Friar's Point and Alligator to Greenville . Across the modeled Mississippi River, Arkansas is represented by Forrest City, Briark and West Memphis.

Each of these stations have industries to be tended to. Switching (shunting, for my English readers) these sites enlivens the operating session. Usually there are cars in the way that have to be shuffled out of the way of the freight cars being dropped off and picked up, as per the switch lists. At the same time, one must be mindful not to block the main line. Passenger and through freights have the right-of-way. To foul the main and delay a superior train could result in photos of the crime on the infamous “Wall of Shame!” Believe me, there are some serious challenges to successfully accomplish these feats in the allotted time. In a three hour session are usually about two dozen trains to run. This includes those delivered to the freight and passenger yards, broken apart, and reassembled for later trains. This is more than just ’running trains’. This is the modeling of railroads!

Allen controls this railroad with DCC, Digital Command and Control. I can not imagine how much trouble it would be to try to run these units with electrical blocking of track segments.

A picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll leave it to the photos of this layout to inspire you with what is achievable with this hobby--this art form!
  • Mississippi_River_1_
  • Mississippi_River
  • Mississippi_River_3_
  • Missouri_Pacific_Freight_Crossing_Mississippi_River_2_
  • Memphis_Engine_Servicing
  • Greenville_to_Friars_Pt_MS
  • Memphis_Engine_Facility
  • Illinois_Central_2510
  • Corn
  • Dichotomy
  • OPSig_Keller_018_edited
  • Cotton_Farm
  • Somerville_Station
  • Hog_Pen
  • Brigde_Jct_Memphis_Union_Station_Behind_the_freight_yard_to_L_Mississippi_R
  • Cotton_and_Sharecropper_Shacks
  • Railroad_YMCA_West_Memphis_Arkansas
  • Toone_TN_pulpwood
  • Toone_TN
  • Mississippi_cotton
  • Somerville_TN_Jackson_to_L_Toone_to_R_1_
  • Somerville_TN_Jackson_to_L_Toone_to_R
  • West_Memphis_AR

About the Author

About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...


Very nice layout.
FEB 28, 2007 - 04:43 AM